10, July 2016 § 1 Comment
by: Jeffrey Carson
The origins of drama are mysterious. But my intuition suggests that all drama starts in awe of the world, its powers and unseen powers, its passions and irresolutions. Drama has its roots in religion, cult, magic, poetic rapture, birth/sex/death, and natural wonder. I think this is true of anonymous Passion plays from the Middle Ages, Shakespeare’s investigations of everything human and beyond, ghostly Japanese Noh, rollicking Restoration comedy, throbbing opera, and even the great realist works of the last century-and-a-half, whose master is Henrik Ibsen.
I did not mention ancient Greek plays because these astonishing works – we have thirty-two of them – seem to know this about themselves, and consciously embed themselves in primitive ritual and, with music and poetry, political realism.
The Aegean Center’s drama teacher, Anneliese Grindheim, knows these things, and her love and understanding of the Greek plays informs her work here on Paros. Last autumn she produced a condensed version of Lorca’s frightening tragedy, “The House of Bernarda Alba”, which, in image-loaded verse, shows what happens when society’s rules try to squelch the natural joy and passion of life. Working with small forces – students and a few local friends – Annelise trimmed the work to its essentials – she has an amazing ability to do this with respect and accuracy.
This spring’s work was even more ambitious. It was Ibsen’s “Lady from the Sea”, a realist drama. Redacting again, Annelise found the poetry and intensity curled deep in the Norwegian master’s realism (she is Norwegian herself). The play is a liminal work, and we are never sure what will happen as the symbols keep being transformed. The actors performed it on the beach, sometimes on sand, sometimes in water. The growth of the heroine’s soul and self into maturity, and its salutary effect on her husband, were aided by movements derived from dance, by declamation derived from poetry, by masks, and by the sea itself – wavelets, gulls, breezes, briny clarity. Liminal indeed.
I’m fortunate to work at the Aegean Center with such skilled practitioners of their arts as John Pack, Jane Pack, Jun-Pierre Shiozawa, and most recently, Annelise Grindheim. What will she come up with next? I may write a poem about it.
30, June 2016 § 1 Comment
The Aegean Center summer workshop, Oil Painting Innovations, concluded this last Saturday with a successful exhibition at the Center. The five painters showed four paintings each, sharing the space with the watercolour and the photography students from the other workshops. The walls were crowded with excellent work all of which showed a high level of skill and aesthetic involvement.The painting class followed several historical methods chosen for their instructive value; Venetian heightening with white on a dark ground from the 15th century, Flemish floral painting from the 17th century and Impressionist still life from the 19th century. These methods were explained and then explored in order for the students to maximize their understanding of the principals of structured oil paintings. A fourth exercise, which dealt with the painting of an all white still life, was chosen to challenge color mixing choices and the necessary lowering of tone which oil paint dictates.
The process of hand refined linseed oil which we began using a year ago at the Center was demonstrated and became our medium. It’s unique properties allow us to forgo solvents. The oil is stronger and shinier than the store bought tube oils. The handling is fluid, each touch is recorded. It creates a tough film, maintains textural elements of brushwork and keeps its color integrity when painting wet into wet. We were in the studios every day for six hours six days a week. The new oil paint made it possible for us to continue working without the need for long drying times and so the layers went on quickly. Working on four canvases with different criteria kept us energized. Thank you to my students for their enthusiasm and their dedication.
8, June 2016 § Leave a comment
By Jane Pack
Annelise teaches theatre at the Aegean Center and I teach figure drawing. This last semester she was taking my class and I was taking hers. We often heard our words to students echoing each other, she commented that I sounded like a theatre teacher and I frequently wanted to break in on her classes and exclaim, “The same applies to drawing!” Of course the arts are grouped for a reason, as creative endeavours each challenges the practitioner to move out of their comfort zone, to search for meaning, to communicate feeling. But drawing and acting seem to have a particular resonance with each other, similar vocabulary can be useful in each: gesture, rhythm, movement, weight, form, vision. And each requires intense concentration, a challenge to refresh and renew our approach each time, a thoughtful and deep presence. It has been said that drawing, of all the visual arts, is closest to pure thought. And acting has that same intensity, the need to be in continual focus or risk losing it all.
I urge students to challenge themselves to use new approaches for each drawing, to keep themselves from being bored with their own accomplishments. I teach craft and expression side by side, but push technique so that the students can think emotionally and still be outside those feelings enough to communicate them. In theatre one loses oneself in a role only when the self steps aside and allows the dramatic impulse of the playwright to come through. I found I was thinking almost like a draughtsman when I was crafting my role: what shape, what form, what movement, what rhythm. And the actress, Annelise, considering how a drawn gesture communicates tension, where the human form expresses emotion, what the speed of the line or its weight can do to change the depiction.
Each discipline has its magical storytelling moments, each includes the element of audience although that is profoundly more weighted in a performance on stage. Still, the draughtsman is performing too, the moment the pencil encounters the page. Most importantly, with practice and discipline, each art brings us closer to our unique self and wakes us up to the present.
3, June 2016 § 1 Comment
The fiftieth anniversary of the Aegean Center prompted us to create an alumni residency program this spring. Seven students have returned to share some time with us over the past weeks, each bringing a new perspective to the current group of students, sharing their work and their stories since leaving the school and inspiring us with their adventures.
Holly Lynton, now a fine art photographer, shared her work with us three weeks ago. Holly was a student at the Aegean Center in 1992. Her work has been evolving along certain themes: ecology and sustainability, people working in concert with nature, and documenting disappearing ways of life. Her work, both black and white and color, reveals forgotten or lost aspects of the rural American worker. We will look forward to another visit in the future for an update on her work. For more images please see her website: http://www.hollylynton.com
Claire Huffman was a student just last fall and has been backpacking through the Far East since her departure. She spent her two weeks here painting, making books and attending classes. We were all impressed with what she accomplished in such a short time, including three paintings and more than a half dozen books. She will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall.
Jessie Parks gave an impressive lecture just a few days ago on her odyssey through Kurdistan photographing the refugee crisis and life in the migrant camps. She is still editing her work as she came directly to Paros after her sojourn there. We saw a wonderful selection of images and heard of the hardships as well as the joys of these people caught in the crossfire. Jessie was a student in the fall session of 2011, we remember her for the wonderful photos she did of the nuns at Thapsana. Her work can be seen at: http://www.jessieparks.com
We are also very happy to have Ashley Cudderford with us. She has been very supportive of the school and is here working in the digital lab and renewing her acquaintance with the island. The same can be said for Valerie Jorgensen who is also working with her photography again and plans to stay for another week.
We enjoyed a visit from Lis Carney and Lily Barberich several weeks back who both made innumerable monoprints, joined classes and felt they were home again. They attended different sessions at the Center in the past but became friends once they met in New York where they both live. This was their first time spending time together on the island. They made a presentation of their work to the book making class before their departure. Lis works as a freelance photographer in New York. Lily works as an interior designer and has her work on: http://cargocollective.com/lilybarberich/watercolors
All of our alumni are special, we love your loyalty to the school and your support. We hope to see many more of you over the next years in residencies.
27, May 2016 § Leave a comment
Judy Voboril passed away on May 20th in Paros, Greece. She was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1943 and fled her country during the Russian invasion in 1968. Italy accepted her as a refugee and she stayed in Rome for one and a half years before being given asylum in America. She lived in Los Angeles for ten years working as a graphic designer then returned to Europe in 1979 living in Paros for many years, painting full time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union she returned to Prague in 1991 for the first time since it had fallen under Communist rule. She lived in a home beneath the Castle which was close to her former home. Judy was an painter who worked in oils, acrylics and watercolour as well as being a superb draughtsman. She worked with the Aegean Center every year as a translator during the September stay in Italy. She came to love Italy when, as a young art student, she went to Florence to be a part of an international team to help recover art works damaged in the terrible flood of 1966.
Judy, Giuditta, or Jitka as we variously called her, was an important part of the Aegean Center as well as our personal lives. Her presence with the school every September in Italy was vital to its operation as she smoothed every aspect of running the program there from talking with the cooks to translating the official speeches of the Mayor’s receptions. Her sense of humour and her honesty were admired and valued by all of us. It was these qualities of her character we counted on to see us through the demanding weeks we spent in Italy every year. Her sophisticated understanding of Italian culture and art taught us how to negotiate the terrain and to know what was important, what was vital and what was hidden beyond the text book versions of the art and culture we saw. She often surprised us with her profound insights into things as her quiet demeanour hid the depth of her feelings and breadth of her knowledge. Italy aside, Judy was family to us here on Paros as well. We had a closeness that was rare to discover among those not related by birth, she was a sister in our hearts.
Gabriel Pack knew and loved Judy. In a recent conversation he described quite eloquently how Judy influenced his life in many positive ways. He spoke of how he enjoyed her forthright and curious nature, “She spoke her mind, didn’t suffer fools gladly, but was never mean spirited. She understood who she was and didn’t let negative experiences cloud her enjoyment of life… I learned a lot from Judy, a lot about life.” Well said, Gabriel. And, O, how clearly in our minds’ eye we can see her wry smile when she quietly endured an “idiot”; her proud eloquent posture and that long blond twist of hair always adorning her straight back.
Judy was an avid and discerning reader, a wonderful artist, a true friend and a generous spirit. Judy was so many things with so much wisdom about life and how one might live it well, no matter the adversity or hardship one must pass through along the way.
We will miss her terribly.
-John and Jane Pack
JITKA VOBORIL By Jeffrey Carson
My wife and I first met Judy several decades ago, a day or two after she arrived on Paros. She lived near us and so we often met. This was often on the beach of Parasporos, where she used to sunbathe and read contemporary fiction in three languages. In those days the beach undulated with sand dunes, and hosted few people; there was no road, and the long path there wended its way through a wet meadow fluttering with little blue butterflies. Judy was easy to talk to, knew a lot about culture, especially art of all periods, but also literature and film. She was a dedicated and successful artist herself.
One quality in her that I came more and more to appreciate was her nearly infallible ability to spot what was genuine in both art and persons, and what inauthentic. Where I might dismiss an artist for good reasons, she would see quickly why he painted, and praise it. If people were highfalutin and lacked this genuineness, she dismissed them easily, even acerbically. Did this lose her friends? Not at all; she had many dozens of friends, and those who met her more briefly remembered her – she had personality.
When a friend dies, there are certain conversations you can no longer have, and a mode of communication has gone. Now we have lost her I am especially having these conversations in my mind, for she was an original. Our common friend Lisa Dart, a poet, wrote me, “She was a lovely person. Vital, passionate and intense. I liked her fierceness, her big smile, mischievousness, her upright walk and the way that lovely plait lengthened her back. I can imagine how you and Liz must be feeling at such a loss. I hadn’t realised you had known her so long. And, I think there’s no way to figure out getting used to loss and remaining alive, human.”
I think none of us wants to get used to her loss, for so many of us were strengthened in our thoughts and sentiments through knowing her.
Judy in Pistoia at our favorite osteria, la Botte Gaia
5, May 2016 § Leave a comment
In an in-depth article, Jeffrey reflects on living in Paros since the 1970s along with his wife, photography professor Elizabeth Carson.
“When we first came here in the sixties, we stayed for six months, and then we went back so that both of us could finish our university education. We decided to come back to Paros in the early seventies because I wanted to try writing and my wife wanted to bring her cameras and become a real photographer. We both did that an until now we are still doing it. When we remembered Paros and our six months here, the photos were beautiful, it was quiet. It was nothing like the modern world, nothing like New York… We are both New Yorkers. There were almost no cars. They had just started the ferry boat.
We lived in an old house, a ‘katoikia,’ we had a donkey and we had a well. There were no people in the countryside, our light was from oil lamps and we thought this was very poetic. And although it was difficult, it was poetic.”
Jeffrey also describe his role as a teacher at the Aegean Center since its early years, writing the first guidebook of Paros, and translating all of Elytis’ poems.
“When I was 22 years old, I bought a book called “Four Modern Poets of Greece” — Seferis, Kavafis, Sikelianos and Elytis. And when I got to Elytis’ poems about the Aegean, I said ‘This is what I am trying to do. He does it better!’ So I started, as I learned Greek, teaching myself from school books, doing little translations to understand the poems better, and after I’d been doing this for four years — but not seriously — I met Nikos Sarris and he was in love with Elytis. So we talked and talked and talked and then we made a few translations together. We sent them to Elytis and he wrote back saying, “These are the best translations of my work I have ever read.” And that’s how we started. And then he said “Do you want more?” So we did. We translated everything.”
Jeffrey also discusses the changes he has seen in Paros and Greece in the more than forty years that he has lived on Paros and among many other anecdotes, about the time he brought the first piano to Paros:
“The piano was made in 1888 I bought in Athens at Nakas’s and six of us guys had to carry it across the field up to my house. Within two years children started knocking at my door. “Give me lessons! Give me lessons” for all kinds of instruments because they knew I had been a high school music teacher in New York. So I taught violin, clarinet, flute and accordion. So all the kids who knew how to read music in Paros learned from me.”
You can read the full interview here.
11, April 2016 § 1 Comment
In the past I have written brief blog posts when Slow Art Day came around. April 9th is here again, and by chance I have been discussing slow art in my Saturday morning classes.
Usually I illustrate my points with a famous photograph, but this time I have chosen one of my own photographs, which was on display at the Parian Farmers’ Union Visitor Center for several years.
It is part of an extended sequence called Heroes of the Soil, in which I attempted several things. One was to record the old techniques and traditions of farming which, though not obvious to the casual glance, were still being practiced by some farmers old and young. Another was to honor them and their appreciation of their own skills and their respect for them.
In this photograph a farmer and his four mules are threshing wheat on a hilltop several kilometers from Paroikia. The farmers knew I was doing this work and approved of it, and frequently called me to alert me to be ready, as here.
In making slow art, first decide on your subject matter, then carefully observe the scene and decide what time of day the light would be most suitable to capture the essence. This picture was taken in late morning when the sun was nearly overhead. The composition I envisaged contained both very dark and very light material. So I had to decide which to emphasize. Next, if the scene contains elements in motion, carefully study them, since repetitive patterns will prove useful to you. And of course shutter speed depends on how fast or slow they move. All this requires time and patience and respect for your subjects.
Now you must decide on the correct angle of view. In this photograph, in order to emphasize the heroic quality which is basic to the whole sequence, I chose a sufficiently low angle of view so that the figures would break the horizon line.
The threshers are, I trust, honored by the finished image. When I was photographing, they were working with me, but in the darkroom, needless to say, I was alone.
By Liz Carson